Category: Travel Blog (page 1 of 4)

My Silver King

I simply love fishing, not sure why, but there it is.

I’m happy to sit on a rock and watch the water. Whip a popper till my arms are sore, or try my hardest to land a delicate little fly on the spot.

For me it’s a primal instinct, not a race.

Every time I go out I learn something about the fish, the world, even myself.

I’m happy to watch the boffins casually discuss tactics and techniques whilst fighting massive fish, without a hair out of place, then nonchalantly toss in the Latin name and distinguishing characteristics, but I just fish for the fun of it.

The last time I went to the Kwanza River in Angola, we fished for Tarpon on fly. Man it was a blast. I didn’t land a thing. Without proper teeth these fish suck their prey in rather than biting and I kept pulling the bloody fly out of their mouths before it had a chance to stick.

Anyway, I recently decided to go back and give it another go. I’ve been having recurring nightmares about those Silver Kings outfoxing me, along with the odd dream of actually landing one and swimming with it, before sending it back into the big blue.

I heard Craig Thomassen had been invited back up there and decided to crash his party, because if there’s fish around he’ll find them….he might even give me a chance to redeem myself.

The Kwanza River is just short of 1000km long….navigable for about 240km from the mouth…it holds over 50 species of fish and is remarkably beautiful and pristine, given that it’s only 70km from the bustling city of Luanda and its 7 million inhabitants.

The “Poons”, as Tarpon are fondly referred to the world over, were not nearly as active in the river as on our previous trip and although we did throw lures and soft plastics there, it was without much success, other than a good Cubera Snapper of around 7kgs that Tommo managed to entice to the hook.

Basically, our best chance was to fish the color line where the river flows into the sea using small live baits with large circle hooks “gently” inserted through their eyes and swum literally within meters of the boat. Tommo was kind enough to offer me the strike, having already landed his fair share of these prehistoric beauties.

I will never forget the rush I got when a giant slab of silver, estimated at 80kgs, burst out of the water meters into the air within what seemed like touching distance. It’s hard to imagine a more magnificent sight. Around 20 sweaty minutes later the fish was at the side of the boat, leadered. As I was about to realize my dream of swimming with this magnificent beast she gave one last head shake and a crimp on the terminal tackle gave, sending her on her way…Gutted is the word that comes to mind, but it was more than that. Would I ever get another chance?

Tommo, seeing my desperation, magnanimously offered me another shot on our last day of the trip. I GOT IT. With only moments to spare a fish of around 60kgs cleared the water, landing with a mighty splash and ripping line off the reel in a dash for freedom. For another heart-stopping 20 minutes we tussled, until finally the fish was alongside the boat.

The 5 minutes or so I spent in the water with this behemoth of the deep, it’s huge eye seeming to be looking deep into my soul before it slipped back into the depths, will be etched in my memory for the rest of my days.

In the end, that’s why I really love fishing.

Where to stay: Kwanza River Lodge.
When to fish: Tarpon in summer, but good general fishing year round.
Method: Bait and lure….fly fishing possible when smaller Tarpon are around

Tiger Blues and Jackpots

Tigerfish are fairly easy to catch, aren’t they…? Television programs and viral videos always paint the picture of Tigerfish feeding constantly, aggressive and hungry all the time and eating anything and everything that dares cross their path. This is what I used to think until I got my first taste of the “Tiger Blues”

So the truth is, tigers don’t feed constantly and they don’t eat anything and everything that crosses their path, in fact, most of the time they are fickle little bastards who would rather just chill in their little hole than eat any of your synthetic manmade offerings.

Tigerfish have a habit of “switching on” and “switching off”. Like most predatory fish they won’t constantly feed and hunt but rather conserve their energy and wait for the most opportune moment where the conditions are right and they can get the most out of the feeding period. This is not to say that a Tigerfish will not react to an easy meal swimming past at any given time of the day, but trust me when I say, you will know the difference between an active feeding period and a lazy period.

Kasinga Rapids on the Mnyera River

Sometimes the smallest change in weather or river conditions can be the trigger for Tigers to start eating, the trick is, it’s hard to be in the right place at the exact right time to capitalize on the frenzy. The best advice I have ever been given on Tigerfish is to just keep casting even when you aren’t getting as much as a nibble, just keep hitting your targets, at some point something will eat.

On a recent filming trip for the WildFly Fishing Series to Tanzania with Kilombero North Safaris, I came down with one of the worst cases of “Tiger Blues”. Guys who have fished for Tigers when it’s really tough will know what I’m talking about here. I had spent the whole day casting on the Mnyera river not having landed a single fish. Bites were few and far between and the ones that did eat the fly I managed to screw-up with a perfectly executed trout strike. I was a broken man, drained both physically and mentally.

Coming down with a bad case of Tiger Blues

Craig Thomassen who was with me on this particular trip could see the agony on my face and quickly intervened with a well-timed “Tommo talk”. He told me to think of it as a slot machine at a casino and I’m playing with an endless amount of coins. Every cast is a coin into the machine and the only time I don’t have a chance of winning is when I stop inserting coins, and at some point, you are going to hit a jackpot.

The African sun was calling last rounds on the Mnyera and still, I was fishless. My guide Johan Du Preez from Tourette Fishing was trying his best to keep me motivated literally squeezing out the last couple of casts I had in me. He set me up to fish towards a large piece of timber in a deep channel, it was nothing special in terms of structure, in fact, the Mnyera is littered with identical targets all over the place, but I placed my bets and made the cast as tight as possible into the structure. The result of that one cast late in the day yielded the biggest Tigerfish I have ever landed in my life, weighing in at a whopping 22 pounds, I had undoubtedly hit the jackpot.

The Jackpot, a 22lb Tanzanian Tigerfish

The rest of the trip we managed to get a few good double figure tigers, the ones the Mnyera is renowned for, but nothing came close to the one that I caught on that day, one fish for the whole day on the very last cast and she will be the one I remember for the rest of my life.

Nottingham Estate

We were recently invited to go and fish on a private game and citrus farm in Southern Zimbabwe, not far from the town of Beit Bridge, called Nottingham estate. The farm covers 20 000 hectares of mostly wild bush, with plenty of wildlife, including elephants, hyena and leopard. The dam that we went to fish in is called Mashilichokwe, and is around 7km long.

The fishing retreat is a peaceful lodge, built amongst some big trees on the water’s edge. They have a sheltered jetty area, and a number of boats for use on the dam. The dam has plenty of structure in the form of rock outcrops and sunken timber. Some world class large mouth bass have been caught in the dam, including the current farm record of a fish weighing 7.8kg’s.

We were there during the post spawn period, which made it a bit difficult to locate big fish, but had quality fishing anyway, with a number of good size fish being landed.

The fish were in excellent condition, and fought very hard. We also had some good fun targeting Niloticus bream on small spinners and light tackle, and managed to catch a few quality specimens.

In the evenings we were treated to dinners at the lodge, or at the fly camp, where low grade oranges from the citrus farm are dumped to feed the elephants. There were plenty of herds of these huge beasts, as well as eland, warthog and baboons which all came to feast on the fruit. The view from the escarpment looked like a scene from “The Lion King”, with electric lights lighting the area up at night.

This trip was something really different for us, with some amazing bird watching, great game viewing and excellent bass fishing. Nottingham Estate is one of those special destinations which should be on any keen bass fisherman and outdoorsman’s agenda to visit.

Catsonova Cruises

The Bazaruto archipelago must be one of the most spectacular pieces of marine shoreline along the east African coast. It consists of four main islands; Margaruque, Benguerra, Bazaruto and Paradise islands, strung out in a pretty chain just offshore of the Mozambican mainland town of Vilanculos.

I have fished the archipelago many times over the years, and count it amongst my favourite fishing destinations. It covers a large area and recently I got the opportunity to explore the entire archipelago in a single trip, which I have never done before. Making this possible was the new Catsonova live aboard operation, which is based out of Vilanculos.

Catsonova is a forty-four foot motor yacht, which has been recently refurbished and is used as a houseboat type setup in the area. She is crewed by a helpful and friendly staff; Jose’, her skipper, Zef, the cook, Roberto another skipper and deck hand and Dean Taylor, a young Zimbabwean, who is the operations manager, host and fishing guide.

This enthusiastic team put all of their efforts into making each trip aboard Catsonova as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Dean is a qualified chef, so the meals on board are top class, he is also a keen and passionate fisherman. He has had a few years experience in the area, working out of Benguerra lodge as a fishing guide in the past, so is perfectly placed to put his guests onto good fish.

The Bazaruto archipelago is within a marine national park, so there is plenty of marine wildlife to enjoy in the area, and the fishing is world class.

Catsonova was our base, and she moved around to different moorings each day, allowing us to fish different areas. We fished from a ski boat that accompanied Catsonova, and met up with her each afternoon at her new anchorage. This allowed us an opportunity to fish the entire archipelago over the course of a week, something not normally possible when land based.

We had two amazing sightings of dugong, as well as manta rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins and of course some fantastic sunsets and sunrises. We also managed to get in some snorkeling on beautiful reefs, and of course we fished until our arms were ready to drop off.

The Bazaruto archipelago is home to a diverse range of fish species, including a wide variety of predators and game fish. We caught nine species of kingfish, along with many other species of predators. We fished everything from light tackle to the heaviest of popping gear, and all that is in between. Poppers, bucktail jigs, stickbaits and soft plastics all did a lot of duty and all produced fish. We chased down shoals of busting fish on the surface, with birds diving overhead, and got into tuna and king mackerel. We threw poppers and stickbaits at good looking water and landed GTs, and we drifted over reefs, working small jigs and spoons to catch a variety of predators and colourful bottom species.

The Catsonova experience is something quite different to staying in a land based lodge, and offers great opportunities to explore further afield within the archipelago. It gave us a whole new perspective on the islands and allowed us to fish areas that have previously been unavailable to us for fishing the prime times.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week, which was made even more special by the really dedicated efforts of Dean and his team. They could not do enough to make our trip great, and were always ready and willing to do whatever it took to make us happy. The Catsonova experience is one that I would recommend to anybody who wants to get a full, tropical blue water fishing experience in waters that are easy to access and full of fish. The Airlink flight from Johannesburg to Vilanculos takes less than an hour and a half, making it a quick and painless trip, and you can be fishing within a few hours of leaving home.

Rivendell Trout Estate-Mpumalanga

When it comes to fresh water fly fishing in South Africa, towns like Belfast, Dullstroom, Machadadorp and Lydenburg, all in Mpumalanga province, are the busiest locations in the country. This is of course largely due to their proximity to Gauteng and the growing population there looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of the “big smoke” and enjoy some leisure time in the country.

Trout were introduced to this area early in the 20th century and have played a vital role in tourism and attendant job creation ever since. A drive along the Mpumalanga Highlands Meander and the myriad accommodation options bear testament to this.
 
As trout are unable breed in still water, stocking of fish into dams (and rivers) from nearby hatcheries is common practice and thus an important economic contributor in its own right.


 
There are however streams and rivers in the higher catchment areas where Trout can breed and proliferate, although even they are generally stocked as well. One of these is the Spekboom River with its source in the Mount Anderson Water Catchment Reserve near Lydenburg, an important initiative given that this source water ultimately feeds the Kruger National Park. Within the reserve are a number of upmarket properties, all of which offer fly fishing to their guests. Included among these is Rivendell Trout Estate, where acclaimed angler Jeremy Rochester and I recently spent a few happy days exploring what they have to offer.


 
After buying the property in a fairly run -down state 3 years ago, the owners Angus and Jenny Brown, have clearly been working tirelessly to re-establish Rivendell as a premiere holiday and trout fishing destination. The serviced self -catering accommodation there is superb, consisting of 2 four bedroom villas all en-suite with large kitchens and living areas, log fires and elevated decks overlooking the river and onto the adjacent mountains.


 
The Spekboom River at this time of year (July) is gin clear and cold, a perfect habitat for Trout, but this does mean that the fish are able to see you coming and can therefore be skittish, so stealth is required to get results. Jerry managed to catch fish on nymphs, streamers and dry fly all in one day, while I found my dries going unhindered and only really had success on larger streamer patterns, a white beaded zonker being the most successful. As always, sight fishing to your quarry remains the most exciting form of fly fishing and conditions meant this was the case in almost all instances. The fish were not big, up to around 1 kg, but once hooked were remarkably frisky and loath to come to the net. Between us we caught and released around 18 fish in 2 days.

As a family holiday destination Rivendell would take some beating. Besides the fantastic accommodation, there are lovely walks or mountain bike trails, with a number of antelope and other species in attendance, as well as great birding.

Add this to the solitude, clear mountain air and sight fishing for plump Trout which can be spotted off your viewing deck, and you really need look no further….

 

Fishing Report – Sardine Run 2018

The Sardine run has started with a bang!

Normally the Sardine Run begins with lots of gannet activity, then tons of dolphins and whale, sightings before the arrival of the silver fish. This year has been the opposite way around. The sardines arrived before the birds, dolphins and whales. Perhaps that is because this year’s run is shaping up to be a bumper one, and while the birds, dolphins and whales accompany the bulk of the sardines, still holding off the wild coast, the pilot shoals have stolen the limelight on the South coast.

Sharks have accompanied some of the shoals, with plenty of large fins being seen right in the shore break at times. Shark anglers have had a ball tossing baits to these monsters, and then buckling up for the fight of their lives. While some beauties have been landed, there are also many tales of broken tackle and wrecked egos.

While the shad have been their usual elusive selves, appearing at times, then disappearing again, they have been around enough to head up the menu in many households already this season. Game fish such as Garrick, kingfish and queen mackerel have also been caught along with the sardines, by those faithful who work the water with spoons and plugs from the beaches and rocks.

The offshore game fish have been predictably difficult to catch, with so much natural food on offer. Ski boat anglers at this time of year make amends by enjoying the arrival of geelbek and Dagga Salmon.

 

 

With such a bumper run in the offing, the Inside Angling crew has been racing up and down the coast, along with the beach sein netters, and the rest of the population, trying to experience the full impact of the frenzy that the annual run brings.

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